Nestled between ma and pa shops and restaurants along Wellington Street in downtown Stratford is a small alleyway easily ignored. But if you venture down this narrow street, you will discover portraits of musical artists, a staple of the culture of Stratford. For more on hidden gems of Stratford, see Katie Croft’s satirical 6 Reasons to Avoid this Study Abroad Trip. Take a short walk down Wellington Street, have a nice dinner and stroll down this alley for a short history lesson on music in this charming city.
The art scene in Stratford is far from a hidden one. Shops boast local artists, restaurants serve meals plated to picture perfection, and the theatre in song, dance and drama is simply unavoidable. Even with all of these outlets, still one carries the culture of Stratford further: music. The alley once served as an access to stables behind the hotels that lined Wellington Street, and was later named after a fruit market held at the same location. Now it is a market of Stratford musical history.
Jack Hayter began playing at age 12 and played the sounds of big bands through the 1930s. He lived and died in Stratford and for decades serenaded locals and visitors alike. He is buried in the Avondale cemetery, just blocks from the places he made his stage.
John Boyden called Stratford his home before touring the world. He was discovered right here in his hometown at the Festival Theatre just three years after its opening. Boyden is one of the original voices of Stratford; his home and the place of his first and last performance.
Before the Tom Patterson theatre was, there was a place called the Casino, where this band was featured regularly. This was truly the sound of Stratford through the 1930s, and was often heard on the radio (pictured in the painting). Imagine the sounds of stings, horns and piano drifting through the night sky as you and someone you love stroll through the Shakespearian gardens after a show. What a time to be alive!
Many more bands and musicians are featured on the walls of Allen’s Alley; take a stroll down Wellington or Erie and look closely or you’ll pass it by!
Information for all musicians is found on the poster within Allen’s Alley. Here is a pdf format for your convenience. Murals were painted by Tyler John, Vlada Kato and Dave McCready.